Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as important regulators of tissue physiology and disease processes including cancer. To delineate genome-wide lncRNA expression, researchers at the University of Michigan curated 7,256 RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) libraries from tumors, normal tissues and cell lines comprising over 43 Tb of sequence from 25 independent studies. They applied ab initio assembly methodology to this data set, yielding a consensus human transcriptome of 91,013 expressed genes.
Over 68% (58,648) of genes were classified as lncRNAs, of which 79% were previously unannotated. About 1% (597) of the lncRNAs harbored ultraconserved elements, and 7% (3,900) overlapped disease-associated SNPs. To prioritize lineage-specific, disease-associated lncRNA expression, the reseaechers employed non-parametric differential expression testing and nominated 7,942 lineage- or cancer-associated lncRNA genes. The lncRNA landscape characterized here may shed light on normal biology and cancer pathogenesis and may be valuable for future biomarker development.